MSU volleyball sweeps opponents in green and white Classic despite injury

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After two ACC losses on the road to UNC and Duke last weekend, Michigan State Volleyball returned home to the Breslin Center for the Green and White Classic on September 16-17, sweeping across Oakland, Chicago State and Evansville.

The Spartans are now 9-2 on aggregate this season and remain unbeaten at home.

MSU started strong in Game 1 Friday night with a 3-0 win over Oakland. They held Oakland to within 20 points in all three sets, winning the first 25-14, the second 25-19 and the third 25-14.

The stars of Friday’s show were Evie Doezema with 12 eliminations and one block, Aliyah Moore with 11 kills and two blocks and Maradith O’Gorman with eight kills, two aces and two blocks.

Doezema said she was blessed with a lot of playing time and was happy to have the experience as a young member of the squad.

“The team did a great job bringing in all the young girls and making us feel really connected which I think helps build confidence on the pitch,” Doezema said. “Every one of your teammates is cheering you on and wanting you to improve and it’s such a good vibe.”

Head coach Leah Johnson said MSU’s win over Oakland was a great response to a tough weekend on the road.

“I thought we had a lot of urgency and collectively played our style and system of volleyball,” Johnson said. “So it’s a good start to reinvigorate.”

After winning Game 1 against the Golden Grizzlies on Friday night, the Spartans came out strong Saturday morning for their showdown with Chicago State.

Towards the end of the third set, the Spartans lost some momentum when the graduate student setter Zoe Nunez left the match with a knee injury and did not return.

During his career, Nunez has tallied 4,000 career assists and 1,000 digs. She was honored for her achievements before the start of Friday’s game.

Second year passer Julia Bishop said the team rallied in the fourth and final set to secure victory in the absence of his teammate.

“We always think ‘work for her, we want to play for her’… whoever came in had to know they had to step in to fill that role,” Bishop said. “I think (first-year setter) Rachel (Muisenga) played very well. She stepped in under pressure… and I think she played a very good game.

MSU beat Chicago State in the first two sets of the game 25-19 and 25-17, but the Cougars held on through the third set winning 25-22 and forcing both teams to play a fourth.

Despite Chicago State’s comeback efforts, MSU won the fourth set, beating the Cougars 25-20 and earning a 3-1 victory.

Nunez did not play in Game 3 against Evansville University and was on the sidelines the entire time.

Before the game against Evansville, Johnson said Nunez was “doing a lot better.”

“From what I understand it’s something that’s happened before and she should be fine, so fingers crossed,” Johnson said.

Despite losing their star passer, the Spartans swept the Purple Aces in the final game and finished the tournament 3-0.

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Sophomore outside hitter Aliyah Moore shined on Saturday with 23 kills and three blocks in Games 1 and 2. Moore said she was proud of her block in Game 3.

She added that the team didn’t skip a beat, even though Nunez was absent from the roster for the first time this weekend.

“Obviously it was unfortunate that Zoe came out, but keep her in our minds when we play the next game and know we can do it,” Moore said. “Knowing that we have to move forward and having confidence that we will keep moving forward.”

The Spartans face their first Big Ten opponent of the season this week as they travel to Nebraska for a game against the Cornhuskers on Friday at 8 p.m. It’s the start of a four-game road trip with MSU’s next home game on October 6th.

Of the 18 players on the roster, 14 are underclass – some have never faced conference opponents before. Johnson said the Big Ten games would be an adjustment, but the Green and White Classic was an opportunity for growth.

“I think it’s going to be a whole new level of volleyball that we haven’t seen before, and one that our young athletes will probably have to adapt to quickly,” Johnson said. “There’s just no way to replicate it, so just get in there and focus on us and not our opponent.”

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